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Category: Visual Art & Poetry

Wind

 

 

HABITS by Majlinda Bashllari

Around here we measure everything

words, costs, speeds–

so nobody gets hurt

be sorry et cetera.

Define and predict: the span of germs,

the time of dinosaurs,

the era of humans.

Expiry dates on foods

favour short-lived romances

over the lifetime ones.

We’re being practical.

We measure tumours.

Sizes disturb us

same as their unyieldingness.

We keep notes. Calculate and file.

Out of stubbornness

we look for equals.


The whereabouts of clouds

we know precisely. Not so sure

about our thoughts,


we get near them,

they dodge

and wave –


young hands inside a steep creek.

Realm of flesh fingers that measure

the cruelty of flow.

Born in Albania, Majlinda Bashllari is the author of two poetry collections, Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home), published in Tirana, Albania (Morava, 2007) & Love is a very long word, published by Guernica Editions in 2016. Bashllari’s work has appeared in numerous Albanian art and literature magazines and in Albanian anthologies of essays and short stories. She lives in Toronto.

Rice Pudding and Rumi

All I wanted was a can of rice pudding. After a long day I wanted a reward. Not a drink. Not dope. Just some rice pudding.


In other stores I’ve seen cans of rice pudding beside the Devon cream near the condensed milk or in the baking goods section.


I thought of her, who I lost, and how she would heat pudding and serve it topped with Devon cream. I wondered who she was serving now.


The staff had no clue. One said aisle 13 with a blank stare.
‘Isn’t it with the pudding?’ said the one with centipede eyebrows.
I was determined to find the rice pudding section.

A woman without a shopping cart or purse or umbrella studied a jar in aisle 13 and then a bag in the organic section freezer. I figured she was the store detective or an immigrant figuring things out or maybe somebody lonely looking to get picked up.


I checked every possible location. No luck.


I walked away half an hour later in the rain wondering what sort of loser looks for rice pudding at ten o’clock on a Saturday night.


I thought of Rumi saying sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
But I didn’t have any cleverness to sell.

Ruminations on Discarding a Drafting Table

Was it a mistake to throw out the old drafting table during my decluttering blitzkreig with its thousands of hours of receptivity to mark making, creating & colouring upon a flat screen opening to the unknown through seasons of catastrophe, celebration, and hope

Only to discover new ones at the same price, half the size, rickety, like stacking plastic toy soldiers until they fall to the floor beside the laundry and a coupon expired

Standing half as tall – is this how people live today – cramped / like ceilings pressing at odd angles, like too much irony or TV news or variety shows with varieties of one crop farming

In the city I discarded what I could squeeze into a hole, after it made itself known, who could fail to notice this hole, brazenly tapping at the doorway like trance drumming & insisting on action

As loud as a hole can be without attracting the attention of other shapes competing for psychic food although that might be a personification best for allegory or proverb

& Even vibrations (especially vibrations!) passing into wood or metal created in the right spirit, I’m sure it was the right spirit, know they are the right size for the hole, the circle, the absence, the sun

Though saying goodbye to memories vanishing into & beyond the hole might be a mistake, if there are mistakes in the ecology of memory and in the shadow of labour – no I am sure there cannot be, and a goodbye is never a forever, yes it often is

In this new world, either squatting, or hiding from the enemy, or working within form shrinking from moisture or heat or time, one realizes a newer price will have to be paid for a full size, it’s no longer one size fits all, it’s no longer all at all

One might reclaim discarded memories in the hole though they float away forever, but the idea of agreeing, I think, is to create another hole, a flourishing courier system arriving in the future at the other doorway, or now, and how can any mistake be made while awaiting couriered delivery

Of it all & with a great sadness, goodbye

The light is warm. The light is water.

Glass continues the journey of light –
flooding the walls & flooding the floors
with colour as light as air.

I am an apprentice.

Today my wedding day.

My master creates a window for the Magi.

I invite my master to the festivities.

After bidding my guests ado

I take my bride to the wedding bed.

The Magi (flooding light) flood my master’s studio.

The light is warm. The light is water.

Tonight I am the flood.

Might I ask of you –

Might you remember –

this apprentice,

on his wedding day

and say,

The light is warm.

The light is water.

Medieval marriage by Giovannino De’ Grassi

St-Gatien’s Cathedral, Indre-et-Loire, France (1300)

 

Later he pretended the moon was a mystical source of enchantment

He fell in love with a visionary


who cared for a tree.

Her visions became commonplace,
although beautiful,
as she cared for the tree.

The knight sometimes

aimed
his telescope

at a leaf dangling in the wind,
or a branch bent low, or bark,
or beds of moss
on the edges,
warming.


Invincible
sunlight
streaming.

 

would you rather wake up or have an egg

My mother told me theatre is like a rooster
but film is like a hen.
She said would you rather wake up
or have an egg?

Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal

Poem 111 by Leonard Cohen from ‘The Energy of Slaves’

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Metamorphoses by Elana Wolff

spoons 1

Some are born human, most have to humanize slowly.

I want to say I’m on my way > at this point: pelican;

in time, perhaps: writer. It seems every act of writing

is compensation for a shortfall of some sort; that to become

a writer one not only has to work hard at the part, but also

be a little less than human. Ideas like these weighed heavily

on Franz K. much of his truncated life. In fact, under their

anvil, he forged one of the few perfect works of poetic

imagination of the 20th century—according to Elias

Read the rest of this entry »

Sun in the Palms: Thirteen Flashes for My Mother by Nancy Kline

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1.

Flash!  One minute to the next.

Short circuit in the brain, struck dumb.

When I get the call, I am eight hours away from her, by car.  It takes me six, foot to the floor.

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2.

In Intensive Care she lies still as a stone, but whiter than stone, on her tall bed.  The walls of her cubicle are curtains, pulled to, on a metal ceiling-track.   A small black crucifix hangs on the wall.  Mother the old Marxist overseen by Jesus.

“I’m here, mommy,” I say, and take her hand.

She opens her eyes.

Our look acknowledges the proximity of death, and of death’s silence.  Mommy, writer mother, has been stripped of speech.

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3.

Three days after the stroke, she has not said one word.  I’m singing songs to entertain us, my sneakers propped on the iron bar of her hospital bed.  She’s had her swallow test  (she can’t), she has been tested verbally  (zero).  I’ve already sung the lullabies, the folk songs.  I am into patriotic melodies.  I sing, “Allons enfants de la pa-tree-ee-uh–”

And suddenly I hear my mother’s voice.

“Le jour de gloire est a-ree-vay!”

Suddenly she’s singing “La Marseillaise.”  She’s warbling out the words, she knows them, she remembers every one of them, both of us burst out laughing, I am singing, she is singing, laughing, “Contre nous de la tee-ra-nee-uh!”

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4.

When I run down the hall to tell the speech pathologist, she’s unimpressed.

“Your mother sang a song with you?” she says, so bored that she can hardly speak.  “Different part of the brain.  She’s not recovering.  No.”

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5.

I bring in the Hospice rep.  I’m filled with trepidation.  Mother knows that Hospice means the end, and mother can be rude.

Or could be, when she could still utter insults.

“Mom,” I say, “this nice lady is from Hospice.  She is going to help us.”

“How do you do?” the social worker says, bowing at the end of the bed, beneath the crucifix nailed to the wall.

My mother smiles at her.  And then abruptly says, “Hail Mary well-met!”

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6.

Scraps of language.

On the seventh day, when I tell mother we are leaving the hospital, she asks, “Where are you traveling?”

She is afraid, I know this (I have always known it, she has always been afraid), that I will put her away, as she was forced to put away her sad ill raving mother, in what mommy always called the insane asylum.  I was there; I was ten.  I saw my grandmother dragged, struggling, up the stairs by two male aides.

“We’re going home,” I say. “I’m taking you home.”

To die, the two of us know.

My mother leans forward and kisses me on the mouth.

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7.

The story of my father’s dying, in the very same house twelve years earlier, waits for us there.  His unintelligible bellowing in the middle of one night.  Then silence.  How pointedly the ambulance crew told me that mother and I needn’t rush to follow them to the hospital.  I didn’t get the message.  His was my first death.

Halfway there, my mother realized she was without her teeth.  We turned around, we roared back home, we turned around, we roared back down the highway.  Stopped by the cops.  Released.

But daddy was already dead before the EMTs arrived. The moment we glimpsed the sly tip of his tongue.  No need to rush.

We couldn’t know it, how to believe that he had stopped? 

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8.

How to believe my mother is in diapers now, enormous basins, monstrous, rigid white papier-maché, like those we laughed about together, in some hospital, years earlier, when we did not believe them relevant.  Does she remember how we joked?

I change her.  I brush the six teeth in her mouth, and the others, in the water-glass.  I know this body as I knew my babies’.  This is my mother’s body, demystified.

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9.

Scraps of language, tender buttons.  “Skillet!  Skillet!” she says.  “She has gone to an extent to spread her trestle.”

I put a warm washcloth over her eyes.  “Oh,” she says.  “Very valuable.”

We send for the speech therapist.

He makes a house call.  He stands close up against her bed.  “C-can you say b-b-banana?” he asks.

“Banana,” mommy says.  She looks alarmed.

“G-good,” he says.  He leans in toward her face, as though to kiss her. “Now say muh-muh-muh—“

“–gician?” says my mother.  “Marauder?  Muckraker?”

“You’re d-doing very wuh-wuh-well!”

I catch the eye of mother’s healthcare aide, who looks at me and quickly leaves the room.

“C-call me, any t-time.”

The therapist hands me his card.

“You g-get t-two more sessions.  Although muh-muh-most people think wuh-one’s enough.  But p-please don’t heh-heh-heh—“

“I won’t heh-hesitate,” I say, with effort, and shake his hand.

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10.

Still as a breathing stone I sit each morning, on my cushion, while the Hospice nurse bathes mommy’s body in her bedroom.  I count my breaths.  I inhale, exhale my grieving.  We keep a dented dark-red iron tank of oxygen, as tall as mother standing, beside the hospital bed we’ve borrowed from the Rescue Squad.  Sometimes the racing of my small mind stills.  Then I am present, an instant.  For an instant I am not in pain.  A myriad of birds whose names I don’t know call to each other in the field.  Construction trucks roar past, down on the turnpike.

One day, after I’ve parked the car in our garage, I’m summoned by the waterfall.  I walk to the wall beside the brook and look down.  Below me, a great blue heron stands on a stone.  The stream is tumbling around him.  He looks up.  Then calmly opens his slow wings as wide as the water and flies low up the length of the creek bed, until he vanishes in the trees.

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11.

Thanksgiving night, I go to tuck my mother in and find her weeping.

“What’s wrong, mommy?”

“I had wished,” she says.  “I had hoped.  I would be dead.”

“But you didn’t die,” I say.

“I didn’t die.”  As lucid and articulate as if she weren’t aphasic, hadn’t ever been, she says, “I think I know myself.  I think I know what I can do.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this anymore.”

I stroke her arm, her forehead.  Her birthday is two weeks away.  If she lives another  fourteen days, she’ll be one hundred and one.

“I think,” I say, “that when you really can’t,  do this, you won’t.  I don’t know even what that means.  But I believe it.”

Murray, her fat orange cat, jumps suddenly up, out of the dark, to plop down in a circle at the foot of her bed.  “Good kitty,” mommy says.

A calm transparency connects the two of us like a windowpane.

“Thank you,” she says.  “You have helped me.”

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12.

The next day she insists on walking the length of her house, to the window in the living room.  On her aggressive metal walker, thump! to say goodbye to the view.  Although I can’t know that, not yet.

Snow lies along the branches of the pines at the border of her field.

“Look!” she says.  “How beautiful the sun in the palms.”

Any of us might have said as much, we’re sliding down the slope into forgetting language, all my friends and I.  But our slow glide is not the black hole where my mother disappeared.

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13.

One week later, in the middle of an afternoon, she dies.  It has been days since she last ate or drank.  We moisten her lips for her, now that she’s sunk into impenetrable sleep, immobile, white on white, against the sheets.  Could she be tinier?

She said to me once, years before, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could just get littler and littler until we disappeared?”  She’s nearly done it.

I hold her hand, although she doesn’t hold mine back.  I sing to her about a bird, a looking glass.  I watch the tiny pulsing artery in her neck.  It is her only moving part.

At the hospital, I saw the moving pictures of her heart, how her aortic valve came fluttering open, fluttering closed, it dizzied me to think that tiny shred of flesh had kept on going for a century.

That afternoon, the faintest rhythmic pulsing in her neck throbs, throbs, throbs.

Doesn’t.

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Nancy Kline’s memoirs, short stories, essays, and translations have appeared widely. She contributes regularly to the New York Times Sunday Book Review and has received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Grant. She has published eight books, including a novel, a critical study of René Char’s poetry, a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, and four book-length translations of modern French writers, the most recent, Jules Supervielle’s Selected Prose and Poetry (with Patricia Terry and Kathleen Micklow).

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